The 1st Session of African Studies Lecture Series: Tradition, Integration and Change | Timbuktu from a Cross-cultural Historical Perspective

On the morning of April 6th, 2021, the first session of “African Studies Lecturer Series: Tradition, Integration and Change” was held in Auditorium 205 of the Central Main Building, with the theme of “Timbuktu from a Cross-cultural Historical Perspective”. Prof. Pan Huaqiong, Associate Professor at the Department of History of Peking University, was invited as the keynote speaker. Doctorate candidates and research professors at Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) attended the offline lecture, while some external students watched the live stream.

This lecture consisted of four parts. Prof. Pan kicked off the lecture with the charm of ancient Timbuktu as rumors and historical facts through maps and other materials. In the second, she reviewed the history of Timbuktu from a cross-cultural historical perspective. By enumerating the writings of foreign authors in the Middle Ages, local scholars in Timbuktu and Europeans, she illustrated the particularity of Timbuktu’s cultural region and its diversity in different cultural outputs and discussed why Timbuktu should be interpreted from a cross-cultural historical perspective. Prof. Pan pointed out that adopting a cross-cultural perspective will help us transcend a single “national narrative” and try to avoid the trap of Western centralism. Afterwards, she showed her two trips to Timbuktu through a variety of local photos and vivid experiences and shared her real and intuitive feelings about this legendary ancient city. In the fourth part, Prof. Pan summarized what Timbuktu is. She highlighted that Timbuktu should be a composite concept with multiple meanings. It is not only a mysterious city, which witnessed the decline of the trans-Saharan trade route, but also, as a place bearing important cultural significance, has been preserved and cared for in the history. She called for more studies on Timbuktu and related African native history, so that this precious cultural heritage can be known to more people and such studies can become part of cross-cultural practice.

At the end of the lecture, Prof. Pan and online and offline participants had heated interactions and discussion on the field investigation experience in Timbuktu, national construction, local oral history, cross-regional comparative history research, ancient cultural relics protection and other topics.

Prof. Pan Huaqiong is Associate Professor at the Department of History of Peking University and Deputy Director of the Center for African Studies Peking University. Her research interests cover African history, development and contemporary international relations. His selected works include History of Colonialism – Africa Volume, in addition to other publications of “African Images: A New Perspective of African Humanities Studies”, “Analysis on Japan’s Africa Policy and Its Characteristics” and “On the Impact of Cameroon’s Land Reform on the Relationship between the State and Farmers”.

Text by: Wang Zijing
Photography by: Dong Hui